Menstrual Problems

Dysmenorrhea is a condition of painful menstruation and there are two classifications: primary, which occurs soon after menstruation begins and declines with age and after childbirth; and secondary, which develops later in life and is the result of endometriosis or other pelvic diseases. The development of cramps, when the uterus goes into spasm, is caused by high levels of hormonelike fatty acids called prostaglandins.

Endometriosis develops when cells from the lining of the uterus migrate outside the uterus. These cells still respond to the monthly hormonal cycles and release blood during menses. However, the blood has nowhere to go and so the area becomes inflamed and painful. Uterine fibroids are benign muscle tumors produced when estrogen activity is high as they depend on estrogen for growth. They appear in pre-menopausal women and shrink at menopause and in the absence of estrogen replacement therapy. They do not turn malignant. Birth control pills add to estrogen levels in the body. Symptoms of uterine fibroids include a feeling of fullness, frequent urination, and heavy and cramping menstruation.

Menorrhagia is heavy menstruation and should be tested to determine if there is any underlying condition. If none, there may be an iron deficiency because of excessive blood loss. If deficient, iron supplements help decrease excess blood flow. Vitamin A deficiency, intrauterine devices, and hypothyroidism are other possible causes of the condition.

Amenorrhea is irregular or absent menstruation. A major cause is too little fat in the diet. Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle, and the hormone is partly made from fat and cholesterol, so sufficient fat is needed to keep menses on a regular schedule. Extra virgin olive oil is a good source of the right kind of fat. Fluid retention is a normal and benign reaction to the hormonal activity during the menstrual cycle and can be alleviated by limiting salt intake and getting exercise. It is recommended that saturated fats found in meats, eggs, and full-fat dairy products be limited or avoided in the diet as they are inflammatory and can exacerbate menstrual problems.

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